Published Online: April 10, 2007
Published in Print: April 11, 2007, as Key HHS Official Set to Depart

Federal File

Key HHS Official Set to Depart

Horn oversaw Head Start, advocated abstinence-only sex ed.

Wade F. Horn, an influential Bush administration appointee who has overseen Head Start, abstinence-based sex education programs, and welfare reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, announced plans last week to step down. His last day was scheduled for April 6.

Mr. Horn, the assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, has held the job since 2001, presiding over more than 60 programs, with a combined annual budget of $47 billion. He has earned kudos for his personal style, even from groups often at odds with the Bush administration’s policies.

Wade F. Horn

“Wade has always been open, welcoming, and responsive,” said Sarah Greene, the president of the National Head Start Association, an Alexandria, Va.-based advocacy group for Head Start workers, children, and parents.

But Ms. Greene added that she wished Mr. Horn had been a stronger champion of funding for the federal preschool program. The Bush administration has proposed flat funding for Head Start for six fiscal years in a row, including the proposed budget for fiscal year 2008. Congress boosted funds for the program in fiscal 2007.

Opponents of abstinence-only sex education programs, which have expanded under Mr. Horn’s tenure, expressed similar sentiments.

“I have a lot of respect for Wade Horn. I think he was authentically committed to the issues he represented,” said James Wagoner, the president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based group that supports comprehensive sex education. “But I could not have disagreed more strongly with his oversight of the abstinence-only-until-marriage boondoggle.”

The abstinence-based programs came under scrutiny in a series of reports, including one released in 2004 by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., that said curricula used by several such programs disseminated erroneous information to students.

Several states have turned down federal grants for abstinence-only programs, while HHS officials have maintained that the initiative is being misrepresented. ("States Turn Down Abstinence-Only Grants," March 28, 2007.)

Mr. Horn will be going to work in the private sector, but an HHS spokeswoman did not disclose the details. Daniel Schneider, the principal deputy assistant secretary for Children and Families at HHS, will fill Mr. Horn’s position on an interim basis.

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